There is nothing as pretty as a healthy, shiny horse. It’s the pride of many a horse-owner to have a beautiful, short-haired horse in their yard. This takes a lot of dedication, good food and hours of grooming. There is truly nothing worse than being the groom of a horse that hates it. The chances are good that you will be squashed against a wall or bitten and kicked. If you have such a horse it’s safe to assume that it has been hurt while being groomed and has developed a dislike for the brush.
Many horses battle to accept a brush, especially one with stiff bristles. Others are very ticklish and learn to resent being groomed. Once a horse has been hurt during a grooming session he will always associate it with pain. Many people use a currycomb to remove mud, which can be painful. The currycomb should only be used to clean other brushes. The face and belly are particularly sensitive and great care should always be taken to use a soft brush in these areas. Areas of your horse’s body that have bones protruding should be treated with great care as you could cause an injury when you groom.
If someone threw a bucket of cold water over you, you would also think twice about being bathed. The same applies to horses. Remember the feeling you get when someone runs their fingernails along a black board? Well this is what your horse experiences if you wash it while it’s standing on a bare-cement floor with shoes. Use a non-slip rubber mat on the cement or, better still, wash a shod horse on the grass.
f you have a horse that really objects to a “spit and polish” session, the best approach is kindness. If you can gain its trust and prove to it that you won’t hurt it, it will soon learn to trust you. Start by using a soft brush or even your hands until it accepts the contact. Take your time to desensitise it with gentle stroking. Take care not to be so gentle that you tickle it. It normally only takes a few calm, patient attempts for your horse to start to really enjoy the attention.
Horses use grooming to cement relationships in the herd and have a great need for touch. Turn a horrible experience into a pleasant one by being patient. Tie up a teff net and let your horse eat while you work – this will help it associate the time you spend grooming it with positive feelings. Aromatherapy can help settle a horse that has a mental block against being groomed. Put a little lavender, cumin and camomile oil on your hands before you start to work with a nervous horse. This will help settle it (and you). – Kim Dyson (082 888 6511).